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Top Republican, Democratic Senators Warn Trump On Enforcing Russia Sanctions

Senators Ben Cardin (left) and John McCain (composite photo)
Senators Ben Cardin (left) and John McCain (composite photo)

WASHINGTON -- Two leading U.S. senators are warning President Donald Trump to enforce the Russia sanctions that Congress recently passed into law over Trump's objections.

A letter released on September 29 by Republican John McCain and Democrat Ben Cardin said Congress would conduct "vigorous oversight" of the law, which cements in place existing sanctions, adds new ones, and makes it harder for Trump to lift them unilaterally.

Trump is obligated to demonstrate "from the highest levels that any effort to undermine U.S. sanctions will not be tolerated," the letter said.

Trump, who has repeatedly called for better relations with Moscow, signed the legislation into law reluctantly on August 2.

But in an accompanying signing statement, he complained that Congress was interfering with presidential powers, and left open the possibility he wouldn't enforce the measures fully.

Among other things, the measure imposes restrictions on companies engaged in Russian energy projects and on foreign banks that help finance such projects.

The law also requires Trump to notify Congress if he makes changes to Russian sanctions policy. Lawmakers are authorized to block such changes.

The letter notes an October 1 deadline for the administration to issue "regulations or other guidance" to identify anyone operating on behalf of the Russian defense and intelligence sectors for potential sanctions.

The White House issued a presidential memorandum on September 29, taking the first step in implementation by designating the different agencies to start the process of putting the law into effect.

Both McCain and Cardin have long been vocal in their criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian foreign and domestic policies. McCain sits on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, while Cardin is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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